Over the past three years, Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali has wavered on the concept of retirement. The wear and tear on his knees is real, yet he loves the game of football so much that it’s hard for him to imagine life without it.
When asked Tuesday if this will be his final season, the 34-year old’s response came more from his head than his heart.
“I don’t want to speak on it, and then I don’t want to run away from the question,” said Hali, a 12-year pro. “I don’t want to say I’m not gonna play, because the way I feel two weeks out of football, I’ll probably be ready to play.
“But I would say I’m leaning more towards (being with) my family.”
Hali represents a salary-cap hit of $9.7 million in 2018. The cap-strapped Chiefs are already approximately $5 million over the projected cap for 2018, which means changes will be coming. The Chiefs can release him and save $8 million, which seems like a lock for a player who has logged only one tackle and a single quarterback hurry this season while playing just 99 defensive snaps (9.5 percent).
Hali’s decision to preemptively make peace with the fact that he might not be playing in Kansas City beyond this year makes sense. But for him to go elsewhere and chase 100 sacks — he currently has 89 1/2 and would love to reach that milestone — he reiterated he would have to clear it with his family first.
“It’s the family,” Hali said. “I’ve got four kids. This is great, to be a Chief for 12 years. To get up and move and go somewhere else, it’s not going to be based on anything but the family and how it’s going to affect them. I mean, I love playing. But they’re the priority now.”
Though Hali’s dedication to football is unquestioned — Chiefs coaches had to back him off because he practices so hard — he’s long been a man with other interests, particularly his music career, which Hali said is doing “wonderful.”
In fact, as the Chiefs warmed up for practice Tuesday, Hali’s single — “One for Me” — blasted on the overhead speakers.
“People are taking heed to the music,” said Hali, who recently released his latest single, called “Samba.” “It’s really friendly. Dance music, African, Carribbean style of music is doing well. I’m surprised to see how much people like it.”
When the time does come for Hali to transition away from football, it’s safe to say his music will be at the forefront. Whether that happens after this season or not remains to be seen.
Hali just hopes he won’t have to make that decision for at least another month. If the Chiefs take care of business against the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs on Saturday, they’d have to beat two more opponents to make the Super Bowl.
“I hope it’s not (my last game),” Hali said, referring to this weekend’s showdown against the Titans. “I want to play four more games.”